Trail Name: Eagle Cliffs via Staunton Ranch Trail Loop
Location: Near Conifer, Colorado
Date: October 12, 2019
Time at the Trail Head: 11:00 am
Trail Length: 9.0 miles (6.7 miles if you don’t go to Eagle Cliffs)
Elevation Gain: 1,384 feet
Elev. at Trail Head: 8,322 feet
# of Hikers Passed: 50 +
# of Mnt. Bikers Passed: 5
# of Horses Passed: 0
I always love to take the windy ascent into the Rocky Mountains from Denver on SH-285, past Turkey Creek, Aspen Park and Conifer. After crossing C-470, the speed reduces immediately to 50 mph and then 45 mph as the mountain curves let you know that you are now officially in the gorgeous Rocky Mountains.
I love driving past the open fields with the forested mountains beyond them, especially in the fall when the aspens start displaying their dazzling yellow colors.
It doesn’t take long to reach the Staunton State Park. It’s only about 5 minutes west of Conifer, Colorado.
The Staunton State Park is one of the newer Colorado State Parks and it offers some majestic views of the Conifer, Bailey and Evergreen areas.
The facilities at the trailheads, as there are several of them, are first-rate, even though they are still outhouses, however, these can even be a sight for sour eyes if mother nature calls.
The State Park staff were extremely friendly and there were five of them to help us and provide us with information before we even started on the trail.
We chose to take the Staunton Ranch Trail Loop, clockwise, to one of the Eagle Cliffs lookouts. This route will take you 9 miles on a moderate trail, however, if you are not use to the altitude, then the section of the trail near the old mill and bunkhouse will feel hard for many people.
We were immediately greeted by stunning views of the pine trees and aspens with the beautiful rock faces on the mountains behind them. I knew I was stopping a lot and taking a lot of pictures but it was worth it, especially for my sister who enjoyed a few minutes to catch her breath. She is from Springfield, MO and is not use to the Rocky Mountain air just yet.
The beautiful yellow aspens were not as vibrant on this hike as the day before it snowed several inches in the area and the temperatures dropped below 20 degrees. I didn’t realize it but it seems evident now that the extreme temperatures will affect the color of the aspen trees overnight.
We met a lot of really friendly people on the hike, and I emphasis “many” as this was a heavily traveled trail, so be ready to say hi a lot and “have a great hike.”
My sister and nephew had been visiting me for 8 days and had hiked in the area on all the previous 7 days so I think Chrystal wanted to relax more on this hike and recover from here aches and pains. But that was not to be on this day. Her son, Stephen, said that he wanted the family to stay together as much as possible on this hike as we had two previous days of splitting up and doing different things. That meant them hiking and me working. We stated together for the first 2 miles because it was relatively flat but when we started up the steeper incline near the old mill the younger ones left the older ones in the dust.
Note: My sister was struggling with this hike as the trail was at the 8,000 + foot level, so she grabbed a walking stick which she said made the hike easier. Since then, I have purchased some Leki Micro Vario Carbon trekking poles, and I have to agree that they do make a big difference. Having two real trekking poles is much better then having one walking stick.
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The old mill was really interesting to see, even though it is in ruins but the old bunkhouse was in good condition, but it was probably restored. If you like history, then plan on taking a little time in this area to learn more about the mill.
The snow had mostly melted but it was pretty seeing the pine trees, yellow aspens among the light snow, especially with the pretty, but small creek, trickling down from the mountain. I always love stopping and listening to the sound of running water, especially if I can camp for the night by it.
Near the top, we started to breakout into more aspen groves with openings so we could see the surrounding mountains a little better.
The trail started to flatten out in this area and we knew we were within a half of a mile from the high point in the trail and that was nearly not soon enough for my sister. She had to stop about every 100 feet on the way up but she quickly showed just how fast she could walk when we started down the trail. I had to remind here that she needed to slow down and enjoy the surrounding beauty. She informed me that she walks to help get in shape and I reminded her again that she was in the Rocky Mountains and should slow down and take in the beauty…which she finally did.
There are not many battles I win with my sister, but this was one that she happily agreed I might be right about.
I have to admit that I never made it up to the Eagle Cliffs lookouts as my sister thought she couldn’t possibly go any higher. My nephew Stephen, and my son and daughter, Caleb and Grace did however, make the extra 2-mile loop and were rewarded with some outstanding views, plus they were able to get away from the “older folks.” The pictures of the surrounding areas are courtesy of their efforts. I will go back to this area again to see the views for myself.
If you ever do take this trail and think you can’t go any higher, you should reconsider, as the “younger folks” said that section of the trail was gradual and an easy hike.
Of course the young ones will always say that climbing Mount Everest is easy when people die up there every year, so I’m not exactly sure how “easy” it really is.
On the way down we came across several rock climbers that were climbing in the area. We saw several climbers up on the rocks and people down below yelling instructions or encouragement, but if it was me up there, my kids would have been saying something like, “we would have been back home by now having lunch. Can you please hurry up and take one step up the rock?”
This is a great place to hike and there are at least 18 trails in the area with a few of them being easier and remaining lower near the trailhead. A few of the trails stay around a lake and is only about 2 or 3 miles in length.
I also want to mention that there are several historic cabins in the area and fortunately for some people, there are also additional bathroom facilities along the trail.
One great thing about the Staunton State Park is that it is only about 45 minutes from downtown Denver. It is a beautiful drive and it provides easy access, all on paved roads, to a beautiful and well maintained state park.
There area plenty of trails to choose from that range from easy to hard so you can feel comfortable taking family and friends of all ages and hiking experience levels and know that there is a trail they will be happy to explore.
If you like people, then there are many people that hike this trail and you are sure to have some great conversations along the way.
If you like fewer people and more seclusion then there are many other trails in the area that will provide you with what you want. Check out my hike on the Tanglewood Trail near Bailey, Colorado which is only about 15 minutes away that has spectacular stream views with incredible mountain views…on a lightly traveled trail.
I had my SPOT Gen3 Emergency Hiking Beacon with me on this trail and continued testing to make sure I had fully understood its capabilities and limitations but there’s not much need of it here as there are so many people. You can learn more about the SPOT Gen3 HERE.
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Here is some of the tracking with the HELP/SPOT message location.
That being said, you never know when you may come across a life-threatening emergency and want an emergency beacon with you. One example could be the many rock climbers in the area who are testing out their abilities on the beautiful rocks.
You can also see my video of this trail on YouTube at Hiking Trails in Colorado | Eagle Cliffs via Staunton Ranch Trail Loop.
Please leave a Comment Below or Email me if you have any questions or would like to share your experience with this area.
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